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Old 26th Oct 2011, 11:48
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Question Zero to Hero information & advice

Ive read this forum in some detail and have found a lot of advice and general consensus about training options for wannabes with 0 flying hours.

This post is really consolidating what I found out and asking those experienced guys to correct me if im wrong and to give me a definitive answer as to what I should do or what they would do now given hindsight and their experience.


Im 29yrs old and looking at a career change into flying if it is realistic. I have the means to pay for either Modular or Integrated training. I really dont mind where the job would be located, ive been living in Thailand for 4 yrs so im good anywhere. I have a BSc(Hons) in Computer Science so have a reasonable aptitude for math and physics. I obtained a copy of CockpitWeb and none of the aptitude tests pose an issue for me (except for the memory ones...I had to practise those...starting to feel old!).


The end game is to get a job working for an airline with good prospects increasing the likelihood of job satisfaction (I do realise everywhere has issues but there must be some better than others!?!) and promotion through the ranks (Ambitious/expanding fleet perhaps?). Due to the nature of the industry, I feel it is better to spend the additional time, effort and cost on training appropriately to secure a position with a decent airline than having to change a few years down the line and start at the bottom again. Australia, SE Asia and the Middle East seem to be expanding markets where the prospects seem better. The US is probably closed to me due to working visas (Im British)?

Im not really concerned about the cost or recouping the money for at least 10 yrs if I can get a job (within a reasonable time...reasonable = 6 months) once ive completed training...money is not a motivator. Im more concerned about wasting the money entirely and the time spent doing it (not earning) if I cannot find work at all, thus meaning a 2 year gap away from my current industry which is IT (making it difficult to get back into). My willingness to pay top dollar is NOT a willingness to piss away money if I dont need to, im looking to spend what I need to give me the best chance of successfully securing a position with a promising company.


Most Integrated training programs are zero to hero with 250hrs (not all hrs are ME), the basic requirement to be accepted onto a major airline cadet program. These FTOs have affiliations with partner airlines but these airlines do not recruit exclusively from these schools from what I understand (so you can apply independently). The process to gain employment is a little easier however as the airline seems to consider these cadet candidates first knowing the level of training they have received by the FTO. The FTO training is however very expensive for what it is. CTC, OOA, FTE averages around 80k including foundation courses etc. I have been reading about people having problems with contracts with these companies but i'll leave that for people to investigate independently. From other posts, the best than can be hoped for right now is to be put in a holding pool for some undetermined time (12-18 months seems to be accurate although some suggest this will decrease over the next year) and then I may or may not move on to flexicrew with one of these partner airlines. Undetermined time not earning, income & flying is unacceptable for me, especially considering the price paid for training. This price doesnt include the Type Rating which the airline usually charges for in addition (varies significantly but 20k GBP isnt unheard of).


Modular training is hell of a lot cheaper and there are a couple of schools out there, particularly in Florida, who will include the type rating as well which is better than joining an airline where you have to pay them a lot more for the rating. A particular example is PPL to fATPL + A320 type rating & 259hrs for $60,000 USD. Additional hours to reach 500 ME would cost an additional $17,000 USD. So 48,000 GBP all in. Not including accom (6 months included) & living expenses however and for a FAA license not JAR. So the conversion is not included if I want to move over to Europe.

As a side note, a lot of schools seem to offer Type Rating Transition Courses. These shouldnt be confused with actual Type Ratings. It seems to me the general consensus is to stay away from these Transition Courses as they dont give you any valuable bits of paper, just additional education for a lot of money, which is useful but can be gained doing the Type Rating anyway that also gets you the paper at the end.

There are also 1 or 2 schools out there who offer associate or bachelor degrees with 500hrs multi engine included for what seems a reasonable price ($77,000 USD) and during that time you can also work as an FI (not sure for non-US residents). This price doesnt include the Type Rating which i've found to be $12,000 USD average.

I havent found any programs that allow hours on type though, only though the airlines cadet recruitment programs where you join them as a SO or FO.


On top of sponsorship to subsidise some of your training, Type Ratings and being tied into contracts, you must also consider whether the salary is liveable in the part of the world you are looking at. I did look at CX program and a lot of guys on this forum seem to advise against it given the tax payable in the first year, high cost of living, etc. Although I do have a number of friends from HK who gave information on living expenses contradicting their claims. I think the difference comes from expats living in an expat area thus paying more. The point is to not look so much at the salary but the expenses that come from it (including deductions for sponsorship). I also understand you shouldn't factor in any bonuses or additional income as its uncertain, which is pretty sound advice.


Addressing a commonly asked question, asking my friends from a couple of airlines and researching on this forum and others. Where you train usually doesnt matter (within reason) and there appears to be no difference in the quality of the pilot produced between modular and integrated.

It seems Modular is the way to go given the cost and a largely similar risk in employment prospects as Integrated. Nothing is guaranteed, you pay a lot more for no guarantee or much additional benefit. I would imagine it is the unknown/undocumented level of relationship and influence these FTOs have with "partner" airlines that weigh heavily on people minds and influence their decision to train with them or not. It certainly did/is me.

Seeking employment appears to be finding a balance between what most airlines want from an entry level cadet, as you simply cant plan for a particular airline or shortlist of your choosing because you're starting your training at least 2 years before employment and a state of the industry unknown. For my purposes im assuming it will remain the same, no better or worse, im sure people will have predictions for both but their opinion would be conjecture. Some airlines will take you on with 250hrs, some with 500hrs, some wont consider you with less than 1000-1500hrs. These hours can be made up of helicopter, single engine, multi engine and type, and vary depending on the airline. Some provide sponsorship or make you pay for the Type Rating or both, tying you to a contract (7 years seems to be normal). Being tied to a contract isnt necessarily a problem for me if the airline is a good one with prospects and if they cover costs i dont have to right away then all the better (but at what cost down the line!?).

The advice im looking for is: What is your view of the balance to be found training wise (and cost wise) to have a reasonable assurance of obtaining a decent entry level job? 250hrs? 500hrs? 1,000hrs? Type Rating or not?

What I dont want to happen is I get to a point in training I have planned on and budgeted for and find i need to achieve more hours or training with no realistic way of doing so as this route will be full time training and I will not be earning anything for 2 years and this period of time away from IT will effectively kill move back into that industry at the same level.

A lot of schools seem to encourage you to become an instructor but it doesnt seem like you can get much work off of that both hours and salary wise (Can I do this as a non-US citizen?).

Finally one more question about flying hours...it seems some people believe paid flying hours are not looked on as favourably as those earned. A few pilots I know say this isnt the case, hours are hours, but whats your view? Other posts on this forum werent conclusive.

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